Running a business to succeed

Epwin Glass, based in Northampton, can make 25,000 high quality sealed units per week and distribute these all over the country from its 80,000ft2 factory. The company has recently consolidated its manufacturing into a single site, and implemented the Clear Thinking Glass Office software for order processing and production. By Clear Thinking Software.

Sam Croft, Epwin Glass’s operations manager, said: “When I joined the firm in 2016  the business was manufacturing at two separate sites, using an old and inflexible German software system, and we were having to change how we did things to suit it, rather than the other way around. We weren’t delivering complete orders as often as we should do and we knew we had to improve things.

“The Clear Thinking Glass Office system has been far more flexible than software I’ve used before, and the Clear Thinking team has listened to what we want and made changes to help our productivity and efficiency. This has helped us significantly on our journey to get our otif to 100%.

“Now much of our work comes in from both external customers and Epwin group companies via EDI, and is seamlessly scheduled and batched for production. The Clear Thinking batching system has been modified for our situation and our particular production parameters, ensuring a smooth flow of work through the factory.

“Orders are made in delivery route sequence as much as possible, which helps hugely with loading stillages and ensures that we get all of the goods to the customer together on one delivery. The barcoding helps us to check that we have everything ready to go at several stages through production.

“Inevitably, when making a product like a sealed unit, things get broken during the process, but with barcoding around the factory, any breakages are immediately notified to the system, and are then remade in a timely manner, so that they catch up with the rest of the order before it leaves the building. We understand the disproportionate impact of one missing sealed unit from an order has on any of our customers, so for us otif is a key indicator of success.

“The innovative way the software sequences work through the factory, while getting extremely efficient cutting patterns from the glass, has reduced off-cut handling, which in turn takes pressure off the glass cutters and increases throughput in the factory.

“As a side effect of the glass saving, we have less time-consuming and potentially dangerous handling of large off-cuts each day. In a busy and efficient factory this is crucial, as we don’t want to have to slow down or pause production to handle large off-cuts of glass several times a day.

“We now endeavour to communicate electronically with our customers, and most of these functions are automated (we email delivery schedules for the next day, invoices, acknowledgements, etc)  wherever possible, and as well as providing a better and more efficient service to our customers, this keeps costs down, so everybody wins.”

Malcolm Searle of Clear Thinking said: “We put a lot of effort into designing software that will help take an order from initial enquiry, through sales, production, delivery and warranty as efficiently as possible, and it’s gratifying to see Glass Office being used fully.

“It’s also interesting to note that we end up with a better product after going through the implementation process, as we invariably learn something that we then add to our software along the way. Helping Epwin Glass achieve its aims has been very satisfying, but we never forget that at the end of the day, software is like any other business tool: it must be used in the right way, and there still needs to be an enthusiastic, dedicated and professional team of people running the business to succeed.”

Sam said: “My team and I have worked with a variety of different software packages over the years and I have to say that Clear Thinking has been the easiest and most flexible to use and has given us the greatest visibility of what’s happening in production. We’ve automated many functions that were previously manual – this has saved us time and money and helped us give a better service to our customers.

“We’re now wasting less glass, making more units with fewer people, and delivering everything on time in full. So, we’re very happy with the system.”